Saturday, 20 April 2013

Alpha 2's Opening Ceremony in Bulud Batu

Alpha 2's Opening Ceremony in Bulud Batu

By Jodi Mau (Logistics)

I had the honor of joining the Loop (Sarah and Helen) in attending the opening ceremony for Alpha 2’s gravity water feed in Bulud Batu.  After what seemed to be a endless rainstorm across Sabah, the day started with the sun shining and blue skies.

We had an early 6am start from Fieldbase, met our friends Coca-Cola in KK and headed up to Bulud Batu.  We were greeted at Aunty Rodiah’s by Alpha 2, who were obviously very excited for the day.  Emma and Jacob led the welcome committee, pinning red ribbons on the honored guests from Pacos, Coca-Cola, the Police, and surrounding villages.

Alpha 2 preparing for the ceremony
With a sea of red Coca-Cola/Raleigh t-shirts in the front rows the opening ceremony was kicked off by our MCs Erwin and Nigel.  The ceremony started with a slideshow that Nigel put together.  The slideshow had highlights from all three phases, the group watched with pride as they relived what they are gone through.  It was great for Josh and Helen to be there as well since they had both been PMs with Alpha 2.  Unfortunately Connor was not able to attend as he is with Alpha 5 in Imbak Canyon, but I did my best to represent him well.

Jonny, Lou and Josh

Erwin and Nigel

Aunty Rodiah was the first to speak and walked us through the story of how we got to this special day, including the many challenges she faced when trying to find funding and assistance with other organizations and how Pacos, Raleigh and Coca-Cola came to Bulud Batu’s aid at just the right time.  She expressed her gratitude to all those involved and especially the Raleigh team.  You could tell throughout her speech, it was coming directly from the heart, you could feel the warmth in the room.

Aunty Rodiah
Ann, the Executive Director from Pacos followed emphasized the strength of the partnerships between Pacos, Raleigh and Coca-Cola and gave thanks to the Raleigh team in their hardwork through some challenging humps that they encountered along the way.

Coca-Cola then took the stage, Kadri Taib and Laura (translating from Coca-Cola) and spoke with great pride about the fact that Coca-Cola and Raleigh have brought water to not only to Bulud Batu, but Pinapak and Borobi as well over the last 3 months.  He also brought great news that gravity water feed projects will continue to receive funding through the end of 2014.  Excellent news for Sabah!

Sarah (our Country Director) then closed off the speeches first directly addressing Aunty and the villagers for their hospitality and welcoming the Raleigh team into their village, and ending with motivating words to get the team through to Endex.

Aunty and Sarah

The Project Managers that have seen the project through all three phases, Johnny and Lou, then took the stage.  With emotions running, they gave thanks to Aunty and the village for making them feel so at home and working with them so closely day after day.  Of course, a big thanks went out to the Venturers for being the hardworking motivated team that they are.

With all that said it was time to turn on the tap! Leaving the comfort of Aunty’s house the group walked down to Aunty’s tap.  The team had decorated the site with signs and of course, a red ribbon to cut! Aunty then turned the water on, cheers rang out through the crowd, and camera’s were going off like crazy. It was really great to share such a special moment with the team.  Once about 100 pictures were taking, we headed back up to Aunty’s for a dance!

Aunty and Uncle prepared a dance with Alpha 2 to a favorite local song.  Accompanied with a live guitar and singing, the team put on an excellent performance.

Aunty then presented the guests with souvenirs which included some amazing necklaces and tissue box holders. There was true surprise and gratitude from some of the recipients of the gifts.   Aunty is such a generous and thoughtful lady, it was heart-warming to see others experience what a great woman she is.

We ended the ceremony with a meal and cold cans of Coca-Cola.  Dessert included Aunty’s famous pancakes, which for those of us that were returning to Alpha 2 from a previous visit were so excited to have these once again.  We stayed for as long as we possibly could, but eventually we had to hit the road and head back to Fieldbase.  It was an amazing day, and a memorable day for all those there.  There is now running water in Bulud Batu. WOW!

Kindergarten Opening Ceremony in Bonor Sook

On Monday 15th April 2013, with much excitement we opened Bonor Sook's first kindergarten.

Phase 3, Alpha 8 outside the Kindergarten

As the project was run with the help of a small grassroots NGO called PACOS (Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah) and funded by Nestle and funds from Mac McCarthy’s (Country Director) triathlon, it was fantastic to have representatives from each partnership in attendance and even better to hear their speeches.

In addition to speeches from Raleigh Borneo's Country Director, Sarah, Nestle and PACOS, there were various cultural performances by both the local community and Raleigh volunteers. Furthermore, PM Sarah, dressed in traditional attire gave a beautiful speech in Malay.

Sarah in her traditional Malaysian dress (pre-speech)

As education in Malaysia is provided by the Government for children aged 6 and above with primary and secondary schools, the village of Bonor Sook - located in the Sook/Keningau region of Sabah with a population of 300 people - is fortunate to have a primary school but has inadequate pre-school access. However, over the past three months, three teams of Raleigh volunteers have worked together with the local community to construct the kindergarten, in addition to providing language lessons and sports interaction with the local community gaining a cross-cultural experience.

This kindergarten and interaction with the Raleigh Venturers and PMs was also of importance to the local community as they hope to open up their village to tourists in the future to share their culture, life and traditions and so the cross-cultural interaction proved beneficial to both the Alpha team and village.
The opening ceremony was an emotional day and spirits ran high and the team were proud of what had been achieved. It really has been a fantastic 10 weeks!

H2Opening Ceremony - Alpha 3

H2Opening Ceremony - Alpha 3

By Helen Pomphrey (Finance)

After weeks of hard work, Alpha Three were able to celebrate the opening of the gravity water feed with the residents of Kg. Borobi on Thursday 18th April. The official opening ceremony included a display of traditional dancing by local villagers (joined by Izzy and Sarah), as well as speeches from the head of the village, Raleigh’s Country Director Sarah and our project partners at AFC.

Traditional dancing

The big switch on


Alpha 3, the AFC representatives and the local villagers
Alpha Three gave their own speech in both English and Malay which the villagers loved. Sarah and the area representative then cut the ribbon to officially open the water feed, which was met with cheers as a small fountain filled with water from the new system, sprung to life. The group were then presented with certificates and jewellery from the villagers to thank them for their hard work over the last few weeks.

The system will provide clean water to 34 houses throughout the community, which means about 250 people will now have fresh water directly piped into their homes.  Last year’s expedition 12I began Raleigh’s work in Kg. Borobi last summer, installing one gravity feed system to one half of the village, so the other residents are delighted to also have access to clean drinking water.

Thank you to the Alpha Three groups across both phases, and to our project partners, AFC, and to Coca Cola for their sponsorship. The project would not have been a success without everyone’s support.

Update from Alpha 8

Update from Alpha 8

By Tash O'Sullivan

"Members of Alpha 8 boarded a coach to Sipitang, where we arrived just in time for a delectable lunch of seafood, roti and rice to fill us up for our trek ahead! Everyone then piled into 4x4s for a 5 hour journey to Long Pasia. Everyone was amazed by the beauty of this little settlement that was so open, yet in the heart of the jungle. It was also a surprise to be a bit chilly for the first time in 8 weeks!

PMs Mike and Harriet, with Noor, Daniel, Freddie, Hatty, Josie, Tash,
Kat, Sjoerd, Jeremy, Asher and Rex (taken by Belle)

Our first night was spent there in static bashas where we met our hero, the legend of the trek – our jungle guide Noor. The first few days were a whirlwind of getting accustomed to waking up at 5:30am and starting a fire for porridge, followed by a 2 to 5 hour trek through varied terrain. Even though on some days trek may be exhausting, the feeling of having set up camp at your new location and lying in your hammock knowing all the hard work is done for that day, is unbeatable.

Breathtaking views
Another highlight of trek is plunging into an ice-cold river and washing off the mud, leeches and cracker dust from your arms and legs!

Weather conditions so far can be summed up in one word: RAINY. Noor even said our group has experienced the most rain out of any of the groups he has led…. in 9 years! This means walking can often be more like ice skating. Needless to say there was some beautiful snow-ploughs, skids and slides down the mud slopes. The streams next to camp can also be raging and the water very high, meaning you go to sleep with one eye open. You will start dreaming of swimming pools and being swept away in your hammock.

Despite the rain we had a jungle party
One of our hardest days was the trek to Maga Falls – despite doing it in a record time of 4 hours, we were unable to cross the river as the level was too high and were left on the opposite side, looking longingly at the idyllic camp! With the amazing ingenuity of Noor and the other guides Jeffery and Daniel, we were able to cross the river the next day on a bridge they built us!!

A8 in the bat cave
It was definitely worth the wait, our next day was jam packed with visiting bat caves, clambering down rocks to a waterfall that most of us even braved to stand under. The experience of which can be likened to that of a pounding massage, delivered by 10 very large men.

Jewelery making
The next day we continued our trek onto Rekong Camp, where we had a jungle jewelery lesson and used our penknives to make bracelets. Everyone was really impressed with what we managed to produce. I felt like Bear Grylls’ apprentice.

Friday was our most challenging day – a hike to Sinupong Camp. With it raining the entire way we made it up the hill with the help of Freddie’s wise and motivational phrases, in 3 hours 24 minutes – record time in our muddy, slippery conditions.

The next day we made our final journey to Long Pasia. The feeling of seeing the colourful village again was incredible, topped only by our home stay welcome of bananas, donuts and the most delicious tea we’ve ever drunk!

Rex being dressed traditionally at the homestay
Overall, our two week trek through Long Pasia was a true test of our strength; both individually and as a team. I think it is fair to say we surpassed all of our expectations and excelled in a truly unforgettable experience."

A8 celebrating the end of trek and beginning of diving at KK's Filipino market
I have just spent the past five days on Mamutik Island with Alpha 8. The group are well on their way to completing their PADI diving certificates with final dives and coral planting on the agenda tomorrow. Whilst it does take some getting used to breathing underwater, the group are all getting on really well and enjoying it more and more everyday. My group - Hatty, Rex, Jeremy and Daniel, went on our open water boat dive today and saw turtles, puffa fish, a stingray and just so many amazing fish and coral plants. I'm looking forward to hearing how the second group get on tomorrow. 

Hatty, Josie and Tash pre-dive
With just a few precious days left, things are starting to wind down as people get ready for the Endex party at the Borneo Paradise and official closing ceremony which will take place on Sunday evening. I look forward to letting you know how it all goes on Tuesday, but in the meantime I will be uploading some pictures from the three opening ceremonies that took place at our community sites this week.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Alpha 6 – Biodiversity update

By Beerend Salomons

After an Easter treasure hunt at Basecamp, Alpha 6 went on a journey to Coupe 1 in secondary rainforest and met our guides and AFC representatives. Immediately we got along with them. After we set up the camp we got a tour of our “playground” for the next three weeks. Everybody was very excited about what we were going to do and the next day we started our first bird checks.

The first few times we checked the nets, we struggled with getting the birds out of the nets. Now writing this a few weeks in, I can tell you most of us got pretty comfortable with that very quickly, to the point where it was like we’d done it before.

We have caught some amazing birds.

It was also part of our project to catch mammals too. To do this we set traps and checked them twice a day with the help of our AFC guides. Whilst we were more successful in catching birds we did catch a few rats.

We have also started with the construction of a new research centre for the AFC (unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this to share yet). Our task for our first construction day was to dig 30, 1.5ft deep holes and at 1pm we accomplished that goal. We were all really happy with our accomplishment and pleased that the rest of the day could be spent checking the nets.

Unfortunately, most days we have had rain so this has limited the progress of our construction and checking the nets and traps on occasion. Despite the setbacks we are continuing to work on the foundations of the research centre, digging the holes deeper and constantly battling against the rainfall which was filling them up. The rain also meant that we couldn't do any extra night walks to catch frogs like we really loved doing in the beginning. Nevertheless, the group have bonded well, we are really enjoying living in our new jungle home and in this final week before Endex we are hoping to progress with the construction, see some more incredible birds and enjoy our final days as a team in our Coupe 1 camp.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Alpha 9 update – Trek Dive Trek

I am pleased to inform you that the group survived the first two parts of phase 3 – the four day trek and six days on Mamutik Island diving – and when I spoke to them were looking forward to putting their boots back on and returning to the last eight days of trekking (of which they are now three days into).

In the first trek, the Venturers loved the company of three wonderful guides Hanry, Elsre and William. Everyday was reportedly filled with a lot of leeching, singing, laughing, slipping and sliding, but Alpha 9 was still beating phase 1 and 2’s times, being faster with every trek. With some tough guys in the team carrying the heavy stuff and offering to help all the time, it was apparently a piece of cake.

After five days without washing or changing clothes, Alpha 9 arrived at their homestay where they had the luxury of a tap and a proper meal. However, the Venturers say this was nothing compared to the night in KK where they had a real shower, bed and even Western toilets.

In the evening they ate out at the Filipino market in KK centre. They enjoyed (as I witnessed) a doughnut challenge and tried every dessert that was offered – purely in the name of keeping their energy up after a hard few days trekking of course. After the market, Alpha 9 could barely walk back to their hostel but after a good night’s sleep they took a boat to Mamutik/Dive Island.

The group were delighted to be on the island as it felt like such a privilege. Diving, snorkelling, playing football and volleyball with the locals and eating too much, sleeping, swimming and watching the sunset, it really is an incredible place.

The Alpha 9 group also welcomed a new group member, Robert the monitor lizard who paid them a visit every now and then.

Full of energy and ready to go, Alpha 9 were excited to get back to trek and were ready to get sweaty and muddy again. In the home straight now Alpha 9 are trekking back to basecamp where they will be treated to a celebratory BBQ on Saturday before heading to the Borneo Paradise for the official closing ceremony next Sunday.

Monday, 15 April 2013

A day in the life of an adventure trek PM and Expedition Dr

By Dr Fred Campbell-Jones

It is Saturday morning and I’m lying in my hammock. The sun rays are starting to emerge through the dense forest canopy and I can hear the calls of birds and the musical sounds of the stream. How different this is from Saturday mornings in my Accident and Emergency Dept in England! Instead of seeing head injury patients sobering up from the alcohol fuelled Friday night, I see bleary eyed Venturers emerging and getting on with their delegated tasks. They start the fire to boil water for the delicious porridge, purify the water and take down their tarps and hammocks.

My role here is more as an adventure trek PM but just in case, I’m also the Dr on-call. I like to see myself as an insurance policy, not the kind that you have to have and hate, but the kind you are glad you have. Like other PMs, I’m a volunteer and do all the duties they do, however, together with the rest of the medic team on Expedition 13C, I am also here to ensure everyone stays healthy. I watch meals like breakfast with an eagle eye to ensure there is no contamination of food, that hand washing is done and reinforce the three bowl cleaning methods, all in the name of preventing diarrhoea and vomiting.

In the mornings I address any medical queries, mainly to do with feet and if I’m on Mamutik Island (Dive Island) I may have to look into a few ears to check for issues. On a standard trek day the priority is ensuring Venturers stay hydrated (sip don’t glug) and wear sun cream with hats to prevent heat illness. Daily I remind them about keeping feet dry and using talc to prevent blisters and the early stages of trench foot, Injuries from trips or falls are also best prevented. Some trails are narrow, steep and slippery and the last thing we want is to have a casualty evacuation (casevac).

Later in the trek I look for signs of heat illness or physical exhaustion as Venturers carry heavy packs for 4 – 7 hours of trekking per day. If anything happens though, I have my 6kg medical kit to hand and a spare tarpaulin to set up a mobile consultation ‘room’.

Once at camp I’m asked to review all sorts of bites, scratches and rashes mainly for which the treatments are simple. It is all fun and games and when the group goes to bed there is always the chance of one last case to deal with late in the evening when I’m tired and have achy legs, destined for the hammock.

The job of an Expedition Medic is never done and it is challenging being two roles at once, but I can tell you this, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right now but here in the Primary and Secondary rainforests of Borneo with a great group of Venturers and fellow PMs on this challenging trek adventure of a lifetime.